Because a lot of people, they're going to start and they're going to expect to be a millionaire in the next month. 10 months later, I quit my job because I didn't stop for those 10 months. After six months, I got zero sales. I think at that point, I feel like mostly everyone would have quit, and just said to themselves, "I'm not made for this." You really have to think outside of the box.
Welcome to this episode of Women Powering Ecommerce. Join me every Tuesday and Thursday as I take you behind the scenes of my journey as a female e-commerce entrepreneur. Together we'll explore the highs, the lows, inspire you to take action and achieve your own business goals. So let's get started.
All right. Welcome, everyone. Today we have Christina Umerez on our podcast. She actually has a wonderful website, cuonline.ca, which she will talk about later. But just a quick intro for Christina. So during COVID, Christina tried a lot of side jobs like drawing pet portraits on Etsy, and she then discovered print on demand, which she's probably going to explain that as well, but it is a much simpler way to sell products according to her. And now Christina actually grows her own print-on-demand business, as well as her TikTok audience, which I think is going actually pretty well I saw. She helps others do the same through some training. So welcome, Christina. It's so nice to have you today.
Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
Great. So Christina, we want to hear all about you, so I'd love for you to tell us a bit about your background, especially maybe sharing both your e-commerce story along with how you were able to get into content creation.
Yeah, so it's really interesting how it all started for me. It was back in COVID. I was really looking forward to just creating my own type of income. Obviously, once I started working from home, I think a lot of people realized working from a home and working for a business, you lose every reason to be working for somebody else. For me, I loved going into the office and being with people, and that was my why of going into the work. I was in digital marketing, so even after COVID, that never came back. I got to that point where I was like, "Why am I working for somebody else when I could be using this extra time," because obviously I had now hours after work all the time to be trying to build up something on my own.
But with that time I did quickly realize how tough some of the side hustles are out there. I spent money trying to do some drop-shipping. Lost money on that. Got a lot of people complaining, stating their order took three months to arrive. I was spending money on ads and everything, and so those never worked out. I tried doing digital marketing on Fiverr and then I got in trouble at work because they found out.
So they told me that had to stop. I was still looking for a way to build income, but it took a back seat. I got really into drawing at the time, so I started doing just portraits. I absolutely love cats, and I was babysitting two cats at the time, so I was drawing the cats and I was drawing my old family cats and my parents' cats. Some friends were like, "Oh, these are really good. Why don't you try selling those?" I was like, "Huh, I never really thought of that."
Christina ( (03:59):
So I started my first Etsy store because after all my failed drop-shipping I did not want to start another brand new website and trying driving traffic towards it. So I started on Etsy, which was my first experience on Etsy. At that point is when I truly realized the power of Etsy because I think my listing had been up maybe two weeks before I got my first sale-
... which was amazing at the time. I wasn't charging much, I was charging $30. And slowly over the next few months when I started getting a few sales a week, I started amping up the prices. But as time came, a lot more competition entered on Etsy as well, and they were doing a lot cheaper. And then one thing that I was realizing that really made me contemplate if this is something I could do long-term was every single time I got an order, I was spending one to two hours fulfilling it.
Yeah, it was-
Yeah, that's lot.
... a lot. And I was still working my nine to five because this hadn't become enough to take over my nine to five yet. So I'd finished work, and then I would work to midnight. On top of that, just the neck problems, which is the one thing I never thought about, but from sitting over my iPad all day and drawing. I tried buying different things to hold my neck, but it was just becoming another major problem. I was in pain all the time. I remember one day during Christmas, while I should have been super excited because I got 20 sales, which is crazy, but all I could think of is that is 40 hours of work I have to do. I had a one-week turnaround. I was like, "I am not sleeping." It was during Christmas, and I couldn't do anything. I was like, "I have to get these out."
At first, my solution was maybe I can ramp up the order value. Because one thing a lot of people had been asking me was, "How do I get this printed?" I was like, "I don't know, google a local Staples or Walmart." I don't know if everyone else knows what Staples is if it's worldwide. But I was like, "I don't know, google it, guys." But I figured maybe I can find a way that I can print these for people and that would help me make a few extra bucks on every single product so I could raise my prices and then sell less.
And so I was googling that, and that's when I found out what was called print on demand. Yeah, for people who don't know what print on demand is, print on demand is pretty much you create a design and they have a catalog of thousands of products, including canvas prints, which is what I was looking for, but they also have t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, blankets, and what they'll do is they will print and ship that product for you. You only pay when you get a sale. What I was looking at it was how much that canvas was costing me, and then I would charge an extra 10 bucks to my person who ordered one of my pet portraits. And then once I was done the pet portrait, I would send them and be like, "Hey, if you want, I can get this printed for you. I can get printed on a mug if you would like, on an ornament, or whatever you would like," and then I would charge that to them.
So that was a way for me to increase my order value. But after a while, it clicked to me as, "If I can do this with these fully customized options that are taking me hours, what if I just pre-made a bunch of designs and created a separate store?" And then I had googled it, and I found that people were actually successful with this on YouTube. So I created a separate store, and I just started creating designs on Canva that had zero customization, that I didn't have to draw out, just teacher shirts and sweatshirts. And then since then I've just been building that up, and that slowly became way more profitable than the portraits. When I got a portrait, I felt annoyed. It was like, "Ooh, I don't want these portraits versus when I get a sale on my print on demand store." I had to do nothing. The print on demand supplier I use, Printify, they actually integrate with Etsy. So when you get a sale, they automatically pick up your sale, they print and ship it, and then in your account they mark it as shipped and include the tracking information.
So all I had to do was make it, and if it sold, I just collected the difference. So it was the passive income that I was really, really craving at the time because I was still working my nine to five.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Wow, that's amazing. That's quite the journey, going from your nine to five job to working till midnight to getting so many orders and realizing that it's definitely not a scalable business model. And then yes, increasing the average order of value was a temporary solution, but I like how you stayed just creative and trying to find something else and not give up. You could have just told yourself, "This is too much. This is not for me." But I appreciate the fact that you just pushed through and decided to find options, because there are always opportunities and you found them. That's wonderful.
Another thing I really appreciate from you saying that and explaining your journey is we realize that it's actually accessible for some people who don't have much experience or they're trying to get into print on demand. It's really actually funny because my stepdaughter is trying to start her own little thing, so I sent her your link today to your TikTok channel. There are a lot of ladies, men out there that are trying to start their own business, so this is great information. This is definitely really valuable. I'm curious, Christina, you've explained some challenges, but do you have another challenge that you faced as an entrepreneur, and what did you do to overcome?
Yeah, so I think one of the hardest things, I can go into one just... It's not really just specific to print on demand, but it's all businesses and one that I've realized, is that print on demand sounds easy, and many businesses sound easy, but the real, real difficult part is sticking with someone or something that is not working out at the beginning. Because a lot of people, they're going to start and they're going to expect to be a millionaire in the next month. And unfortunately, that's not how it works.
The beginning is going to be fully learning. And if you can understand that and be like, "Okay, I'm okay, this first two months, I don't expect anything. I just expect to get better." But a lot of people don't have that. For print on demand and any business, if everyone got the payoff in a day or two, it would be so saturated, but so many people start print on demand are not successful because it's really, really hard to keep on working without proof that it's going to pay off in the long run. I think print on demand is the one that taught me that. Crazy, it took me five weeks for my first sale, it took me 70 listings before I got my first sale on my print on demand listings. Four months, I only made a few hundred profits. But 10 months later, I quit my job because I didn't stop for those 10 months even though I wasn't getting the big payoff.
And that's a long time to put into something. Even now, that has helped me really understand business and instill this belief that if I want something, I can learn it. If other people are doing it, I can learn it, because the best skill you can have is to persevere and keep going when everyone else gives up. That's, I think, where the key is. I'm trying to build up my YouTube channel right now. It's been a year. It took me, I think, seven months to get monetized, to make my first dollar on it. I was spending money on an editor. I think for people starting, it's both scary that the payoff might take a long time, but that can be your secret sauce to success, is outlasting everybody else.
Mm-hmm. Absolutely. That is really a good point. I totally get you in what you're saying because I personally started my first e-commerce, which was a drop-shipping business, and it was really just a learning school because I did not continue for all the same reasons that you probably did not continue as well. And then when we started our e-commerce that we still have now up to date, we started on a platform called WooCommerce. After six months, I got zero sales, zero sales. I think at that point, I feel like mostly everyone would have quit and just said to themselves-
... "I'm not made for this. Maybe this is not my thing." But just being creative. And so what we did was just try and go on another platform thinking maybe this is not the right thing, had some users try and test our platform and website and see how does it work, do you have any feedback for me? Made the adjustments. And after one day on that new platform, on Shopify, we made it first sale.
Yeah, it was awesome. There is something so rewarding from having that first sale.
Yeah, absolutely. I love your perseverance and really that's definitely something that just doing that and being consistent can really make a big difference and you'll outstand yourself from everyone else very easily that way. That's wonderful. Great.
You're still a pretty young entrepreneur, it's only been a few years since COVID, approximately that time, but you seem to have gained a lot of experience in just a few years. So I'm curious to know what would be one piece of advice you would give to other entrepreneurs or maybe to yourself maybe three years ago or when you first started?
Yeah, so aside from that, just the perseverance, one thing very specific I guess to print on demand is you really have to think outside of the box. There's so many people doing print on demand now, but that doesn't mean that there's not room for success. It's just everybody is doing what everybody else is doing. People see nurse t-shirts are doing great, so as a brand new seller, they're trying to sell nurse shirts against established stores who have hundreds of thousands of sales already.
For me, I found all my success in really tiny niches and getting really specific. My first bestselling niche in my store was breathwork because no one was thinking of breathwork. It's not that common for everybody to be involved in that, but the people who are in that niche are super, super passionate about it. And because I'm in that niche, I also knew all the sayings. I knew what type of designs they would like because I was designing for myself. I think so many people are like, "Oh, Christmas shirts, those are always selling." But everybody is doing Christmas shirts. So the more niche you can go, and especially if it's something you are passionate about because then you're also sticking out from the competition because you know the inside jokes.
I did an audit for one of my students. They had 30 sales on their first month. I looked at their product and I was like, "I have no clue what any of these T-shirts mean." And they were like, "Oh, they're all inside jokes," for this one job that I had never heard of before." But because he was in that niche, he knew all the jokes and no one was designing for them, so he was killing it right off the bat because he found just a niche that hadn't been served yet.
That's amazing. I love that, the inside jokes. If you understand that, you're in a niche. If someone, they understand that concept that you need to niche down, do you have any recommendations to find your niche, or how did you do it?
The best way for me at first was literally just listing out everything that I love, everything that I want to talk about. For me, it was Pilates and yoga and breathwork, and even certain food that I really liked. I was just writing that down. And then for me, I was using this tool called eRank. It's an Etsy analytics tool that you can take a look at. You can look up Pilates shirt and you can see exactly how many searches it gets a month and how much competition on Etsy it has.
So after writing down all of the niches that I really wanted to design for, I was validating them on eRank, and then I was also checking maybe there's a different product they like, so maybe I looked up Pilates tank top, and I was like, "Oh, that's actually more popular than a Pilates shirt." And that's how I also decided on the product, because with print on demand, there's tons of other products out there. For me, actually, the niche that I'm mostly in right now actually loves sweatshirts more than t-shirts. I was able to discover that using these analytics tools.
Wow, that's amazing. Is there any seasonality in your products for... Let's say, you were talking about sweatshirts right now, do you see that a lot?
So I do. With print on demand especially, the big months are coming right now. I just got my rise. Yesterday was my biggest sales day of this year so far because up until December 24th, I'm about to see a major rise. Like 10 times the amount of sales I usually get are going to be coming October, November, December.
Yeah, usually it's a substantial rise. I don't chase holidays. All of my products are evergreen, so they're not Christmas shirts or Thanksgiving shirts or Halloween shirts. In the next few months, you can get more sales than you got the rest of the year combined. So I'm really getting excited for the next few months. I'm not sure what niche you're in, but I'm sure you've seen the Q4 rise.
Yeah, especially with Black Friday, Cyber Monday. In the latest couple of years, it's just something that people are expecting now and they're actually looking forward to that before their Christmas shopping so definitely.
Yeah, congrats on yesterday's sales, that's amazing.
Thank you. Yeah, I was really excited to see it coming early.
All right. Okay, so maybe one other question for you, Christina. I'd like to know, what is one resource, such as a book maybe that you've read or a person, like a mentor or someone online that you're following, that has had a significant impact on your journey?
I think two. One that really got me thinking about niches was the book, I think it was Zero to 100K in One Year. I need to look up the exact naming of what it was.
But that was a really good book that taught me the importance of really niching down. And then just YouTube, there's just some amazing print on demanders. I'm also on YouTube if you guys want to look me up, and I teach print on demand content in there. Some of the first people, I don't think they make content anymore, but the ones that taught me about print on demand were called Life Hacker Couple. They actually have made millions on Etsy. I think they've turned to just doing their Etsy store, so they're not content creators anymore. But even their old things are super inspiring if you want to take a look at those.
Wow, that's amazing. Never really heard about them. I'm not into Etsy a lot, but will definitely look into them. I'm sure a lot of people who are looking to do some print on demand will definitely appreciate that and find it valuable.
So Christina, could you maybe before we end the episode today, if some of our listeners are interested maybe in doing some free training, where can they find you? And maybe do you want to explain a little bit of what you do on the training side?
Yeah. For me, content creation kind of fell into my lap. I will go into the story of how I started on TikTok, because for me, once I had one of my biggest months, I was actually super camera shy and I had a goal for myself to just post one TikTok. Some of my friends were doing a challenge online where they just had to talk to the camera for one minute a day. I was like, "I want to try to do that." I made it about my print on demand business, and that's when I realized just how curious people were about this.
My first or second video on TikTok blew up to about a million views. I woke up with 30,000 followers and people asking how they can do what I've done. That's where I started with the whole content creation, realizing people are so interested and people want to learn. So that's where I started sharing tips on TikTok about Etsy, about print on demand, new products. And then I started also teaching on YouTube. So if you're looking for just the quick snippets, you can check out my TikTok, which is my initials C.U., and then online. Same thing on YouTube. If you're interested in learning, I would definitely probably check out my YouTube, C.U.Online. And then from there, I also have a free training that you can watch that just explains the beginning process and some tips about niches and designing some of my biggest tips for beginners. So I would definitely start there for people.
Wow, that's amazing. I'm definitely going to check out your YouTube channel, which I have not yet. But yes, YouTube is a great platform to learn a lot of things, so make sure to go check out Christina on her website, YouTube, TikTok. Thank you so much, Christina, for your time today. It was such a pleasure to have you.
Thank you so much for having me. It was great talking to you.
Yes, thank you.
Thank you for being part of this journey with me. I hope you gained valuable insights and inspiration today to keep growing and taking action towards your goals. Please follow me on social media. Also follow us on your favorite podcast platform to get notifications every time a new episode is uploaded. See you next time.